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CMO’s COVID-19 Video Update 02 December

COVID-19 Update by

Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee,

Wednesday 1 December.


Watch the video update at


Hello everyone.

The world is concerned about the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, and that concern clearly is shared here in the Islands.

There are three things that we really need to know more about with this variant, before we proceed with knowing how exactly to deal with it. Firstly, how infectious it is. At the moment it appears to be highly infectious but we need more precise details than that. Secondly, how infectivity relates to sickness rates and illness rates, as a consequence of being infected with Omicron, and, thirdly, how effective the vaccines are going to be against this new variant.

For the last part, what the scientists need to do, is to actually grow the virus in a laboratory and then see how well antibodies work against the virus when these antibodies have been generated by people who have been vaccinated.

Whilst we’re waiting for this information, I would please ask people to remember all of the things that you need to do to protect yourself, which is: to wear a mask in enclosed spaces, even wear a mask when you’re outside if you’re vulnerable or at risk, or you’re mixing with people who are vulnerable and at risk. Consider carefully whether you need to hold a party, or whether you need to go to a party, or whether you need to go to a gathering. I very much appreciate this is a festive time, and a time for gatherings, but it’s also exactly for that reason that we need to give careful consideration to our decisions, and whether they may accidentally stir up or cause an increased threat or spread of SARS-CoV-2.

For the vulnerable, of course it’s particularly the elderly that we’re concerned about and anybody with an immune suppressed system. As we’ve seen with the outbreak at the Pines, and in other older people, there are big concerns that this virus is able to reach even people who we are trying to protect so we really need to redouble our efforts in this regard.

As far as incoming travelers are concerned, many of you will know that regulations were introduced at the weekend to require quarantine for people coming from certain southern African countries.

In addition to that the [Ministry of Health] have sent out a press release to advise that Public Health is requiring any positive people who have traveled to go on and have a PCR test, and not only to isolate, but all of their primary contacts are also being required to isolate.

Talking about PCR tests, when we had the Alpha variant we noticed that when we ran multiplex platform PCR test, that means running PCR tests which look at multiple different targets on the gene, as they can do at the Health Services Authority, and they regularly and routinely do so, there was a what we call an s gene dropout.

That means that in two of the three different targets that were being looked at, one of them would be negative and two would be positive. That’s because there’s so much variation in that particular area of the Alpha variant, that that pattern was seen. So we’re clearly demonstrating the positive results, but we’re getting this curious pattern where one part of the gene is sufficiently different to the original SARS-CoV-2 that we see an s gene drop out.

There is no Alpha around in Cayman now, it’s all Delta. So we know that if we see the same pattern, which is also displayed by Omicron, the s gene dropout, we know that we will likely have Omicron within our shores. And we are actively looking for that pattern with the PCR tests. Obviously we are also doing the genomic sequencing and are currently running further sequences and should have results probably next week for the more recent results.

And we’re redoubling our efforts to try and look at these more frequently, because we’re well aware that looking to see what’s moving in our community is important in us understanding how we fight it both here and internationally.

For the hospital census data which is the key data that we’ve been looking at as to how well we are managing with the community outbreak, we currently have 20 patients in hospital. A week ago there were 29 patients.

You’ll recall that I’ve talked about bed capacity which we can continue to look after COVID patients and continue to do elective work at the same time. And we have around 55 beds across all the hospitals that we can give over to covered patients while still continuing elective patients And so we’re currently using 20 of these which represents 36 percent of the capacity while still continuing to look after elective patients.

So figures are improving with regards to admissions. Of the people who are admitted there are 14 at the Health Services Authority and six at Health City. Two ventilated patients remain and they’ve been ventilated for a while at the Health Services Authority, and across both hospitals, amongst those 20 patients there are 11 people requiring supplementary oxygen.